Short version: Hooray for the film doing a great job with a book I thought was badly flawed. It came much closer to selling me on its story, and I only felt the absence of perhaps one element from the book. I enjoyed it lots, and a good portion of it felt perfect.
No secret I was badly disappointed in the book of HBP. Summary of my ranty reasons:
1. All those Pensieve trips. Pure exposition; so much so that I thought, "There has to be something else going on with these." I tried to make plot out of it.
2. As soon as Dumbledore explained horcruxes I said, "Harry's one," and expected Dumbledore to try to off Harry by the end of the book. I thought that's what all the exposition and the cave and Dumbledore's odd behavior was leading to.
3. Snape's loyalties are spelled out right from the Spinner's End scene, so for Harry to remain in ignorance at the end of the book insults the reader.
4. Emotionlessly-done Harry/Ginny, all tell, no show.
So I've been looking forward to the film a lot, because I had nowhere to go but up from there, and thought it was likely that the film could tell the story in a more credible way. Maybe Snape's motives could be better concealed, maybe they could develop the Harry/Ginny visually in a way the book couldn't.
And I was really pleased with how hard they tried. Reducing the Pensieve jaunts. Thank god. Only one major scene of that, and a minor one which instantly began to drive scenes that followed (Harry pursuing Slughorn), and the last one then moved directly into the final action sequence. That part in particular was gratifying because it gave a sort of "quick, don't linger on this" glossover to the whole "is Harry a horcrux, is Dumbledore taking Harry somewhere to kill him" --but did you notice how Dumbledore's eyes flick up to Harry's when he says, "I may have...found another one," tellingly? In the books Dumbledore's known about this all along, but perhaps the films are trying to make that a dawning moment for Dumbledore. Harry has that weird flash-scene moment when he touches the dead ring, immediately before. Innnnnnteresting.
This film flowed, with almost every scene leading into another, and less of the change-of-seasons lightness that marks the earlier films. This film should be effing dark, and Harry sober as they made him to be, following Sirius's death as it does, and I didn't have the feeling of irreverence in this film as I did in the book, not once. (Even Harry chatting up the café waitress seemed cynical and nihilist.)
Harry/Ginny, I'm giving them all kinds of credit for working on it, putting Harry and Ginny together as much as possible in emotionally connecting moments. Recognizing that they had none of those from the first five films (because there were almost none in the first five books) and doing what they could. They even did their best to put the kibosh on the Harry/Hermione chemistry in a, "Please, everyone, we're going to spell it out for you that Harry thinks of Hermione as just a friend, because even we think this one is going to need an anvil of 'No!' We're going to have to ask you to stop going there." I didn't quite buy the Harry/Ginny, still. By the time Hermione asks Harry, "What do you feel when you look at Ginny and Dean? I've seen the way you look at her," I thought, "Ah, nope, too early. If you'd asked that at the end of another hour of this I think I'd've bought it. I'm sorry, I know you just didn't have that hour." But credit for doing their best, and I like to think they might have sold a lot of the audience on it nonetheless.
Snape's loyalties--I've never disliked the scenes that lay his loyalties bare, I've just argued that you can't lay all that groundwork and then pretend it's a secret you're keeping for the next book. And I don't see how the filmmakers could subvert that without completely rewriting the last book. So one could suggest that his loyalties should be made more obscure. But the film's brought me to the point where I see that's just not possible, it cheapens Snape not to give the audience his story. I still think it's wrong for Harry not to be given it as well at the end of this chapter. It turns Half-Blood Prince into half a book instead of a book, and I hate that, BUT I think they did what they could to display how Harry is being kept in the dark and even say, "Yes, it's unfair, isn't it."
Before the film I would have argued (did argue) that removing the Spinner's End scene was the wisest way to make his motives less obvious. By abbreviating it as they did, removing Snape's laundry list of excuses that keep him in Voldemort's graces, it was at the least much less a wet fish in the face. Nevertheless you still felt Snape was roped into it, felt his bravado as he steps up to the Vow, felt his "Oh, I'm fucked," as he hesitates before part three of the Vow. And the scene where Dumbledore and Snape argue, I'm glad they kept that, because it can't be helped, Snape's loyalties are meant to be gleaned by the audience, that's all there is to it, and to do less is to cheat him.
Did many of you feel cheated by the omission of "Don't call me coward" at the end? I think it was (blasphemy!) a wise elimination. This is the line that dangles a shove of meaning in front of Harry, and by keeping that from Harry (Snape's coldness during that scene, omigod, that was incredible), it's the grim look of the filmmakers out the fourth wall, saying, "Yeah, we know. It couldn't be more unfair that they're keeping Harry in the dark, isn't it." Snape didn't get the least hint of passion, the implication that he cared at all what Harry thought of him, without that line. Nothing upon which Harry could pick up. Yes, I think they were wise.
Okay, on to other points. How have I got this far into this and not mentioned Draco so far? Well, because Draco's part in this book is the gleam of rubies beneath the rubbish, and if the filmmakers didn't know that, sheesh, no one could help them. This was the good stuff, and they knew it, and it was beautiful. I adored that the Borgin and Burkes scene was turned into "an intitiation," because we deserved that, that sort of dark ceremonial feel to this plot. (And I'm not speaking of Death Eater initiation orgyfic for once. Wasn't even going there.--I know, I must not be feeling well.) Draco's progressive scenes with the cabinet were haunting. (Anyone else flash on Jeff Goldblum in The Fly?) By the time we reached the crying-in-the-bathroom scene Draco's terrified frustration just pulsed off the screen, and I kiss every one of the film's creators for what they did with the Draco-sees-Katie-Bell scene and making the Sectumsempra scene work that marvelously. Draco on the tower was the unhappiest and most miserable of young men, as he should have been in that scene, and the inclusion of Harry analysing Draco's actions at the very last ("No. He was lowering his wand,") had me swooning with how utterly attentive they'd been to the core plot. Yes, I'm a thesaurus of superlatives for this. Deal.
I mentioned I felt only one real omission; in general, much as I did with Order of the Phoenix, I watched this film all the way through without any litany of, "Oh, they cut that...oh, they left that out." At the least if I did notice something I didn't think, "How dare they cut that." (Though the absence of the "I'm his head of house, and I shall decide how hard..." line did have me thinking, "Ah, shit, femmequixotic must be crying buckets.") Y'gotta judge a film on how it works as a film; them's the rules. But I did jaw-drop a little that they didn't explain "half-blood Prince," and left the audience to believe it's some pompous title. It's the TITLE OF THE FILM, fergoshsakes. I really expected Hermione to say to Harry, there on the tower at the end, "I looked it up...Prince was Snape's mother's maiden name. And his father was a Muggle." 'S all it would have taken.
Can we talk about the slash? Of course we can, it's my journal. Yes, there were all those Harry-stalking-Draco moments (how fitting that Harry laments that the ache of unrequited love "feels like this," just as they cut to a shot of Draco slinking), but the two unsurpassed moments for me were actually not between the boys (though they involved each of them).
Harry: You said Slughorn would try to collect me.
Harry: ...Do you want me to let him.
ALDFJAS;LKFL RENTBOY!HARRY HOMG. ALBUS YOU PIMP.
Second, when Snape has Draco up against the wall, and the camera pans off of them to eavesdropping!Harry just as Snape is oozing, "if you let. Me. Assist. You," I swear I heard the zipper. NOT HALLUCINATING.
Bits and pieces:
-I did not like Lavender's performance. She was a caricature. I much preferred the flirtiness shown by the Patil twins in the previous film, and expected Lavender to be more along those lines, not nearly so over-the-top. Even the glimpse we had of Romilda was realistic, and Luna, for all her loopiness, is nevertheless grounded. It was as if they'd pulled Lavender in from some cartoon. (But I blame the directors, not the actress.)
-The pensieve-memory effect was visually arresting, just beautiful. And I loved how
luminescent Riddle looked.
-Harry watching Malfoy on the map while he's in bed, OH WHAT IS YOUR RIGHT HAND DOING HARRY. BIT OF A TOSSER INDEED. Okay, that one's almost up there with the other two unsurpassed moments.
-I wince to imagine the number of screencaps that will feature Ginny rising from tying Harry's shoelace with her head at just...THAT...height.
-Harry high on Felix Felicis merits ROFLing. Hippy Dippy Weather Harry. And the scene with Aragog's dead body would have felt wayyy too long if not for the fact that we were seeing that Felix Felicis just makes things CRAYZEE.
-Am still convinced that Rickman could make a rock orgasm just with his voice.
-DRACO GOT DADDY'S PIMPSTICK.
-I was worried that Harry would not feel like the center of this film from the way the previews seemed to show everything but him. Shouldn't have worried. He still carried the film, was its center, even as other characters seized the spotlight at every turn. It's still about Harry.
-Even as the scene showcased the woes of Neville, I had to laugh that it carried through on Belby falling out of Slughorn's graces. Nice, that.
-HELLO LUCIUS'S PICTURE.
-Dumbledore: "I'm sure you must be wondering why I brought you here, Harry." Harry: "Actually, sir, after six years, I just sort of go with it." Sometimes Lampshade Hanging is perfect, yes.
-The Burrow-burning scene has been dubbed Wizards of the Corn.
-Man, I liked Hermione's Christmas Party dress.
Lots of other stuff. Just because I didn't mention it doesn't mean I didn't like it.
I've already heard a lot of criticism of the way many scenes were changed, but here I am, sitting back and saying, I thought it worked for me as a film, and none of the abbreviations or deletions, save one, bothered me in particular. The floor's open to discussion for any dissenters. ^_^